Thousands of pro-coup supporters have assembled at a stadium in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as the ultimatum from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum approaches expiration.
The gathering occurred on Sunday at the 30,000-seat stadium named after Seyni Kountche, who led Niger’s first coup d’etat in 1974. The attendees cheered the ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) delegation and displayed Russian flags and images of the military leaders. In a fiery address, General Mohamed Toumba condemned those who were “plotting subversion” against Niger’s progress, stating, “We are aware of their Machiavellian plan.” Despite ECOWAS’s July 30 deadline, the coup leaders have exhibited no intent to restore the former president to power.
The current situation has prompted mixed responses from neighboring countries and global powers. On Friday, ECOWAS military chiefs outlined a plan for potential military intervention, with Senegal and Ivory Coast indicating readiness to engage. Conversely, Nigeria’s Senate has advocated for non-military solutions, while Algeria and Chad, non-ECOWAS nations with formidable militaries, have opposed military action.
Tensions have also escalated with neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both under military rule, warning that an invasion of Niger by ECOWAS would be considered a declaration of war.
The coup has substantial international implications, particularly for the United States and its allies, who considered Niger a significant “counterterrorism” partner in the Sahel region. The area has seen the growth of groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), increasingly threatening coastal nations such as Benin, Ghana, and Togo.
The US, France, and European countries have funneled significant military support into Niger, with France and Washington stationing 1,500 and 1,100 military personnel in the country.